Sligo Chamber of Commerce welcomes Budget 22 – but key issues of town centres and vacancies has yet to be tackled

Speaking after Budget 2022 announcement, Sligo Chamber CEO Aidan Doyle said the Chamber welcomed the Government’s commitment to supporting businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. But it has more work to do to bring investment to the region and free up land for essential housing.

Here’s Aidan’s take on the main measures announced by Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath yesterday:

 Business Supports

“This has secured jobs, prevented permanent closures and provided an opportunity for the country to recover more quickly than anticipated. Our economy is in a strong position when it comes to taking advantage of the global rebound in growth.

“We support the extension of supports for business into 2022. The Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme and commercial rates waiver have been a lifeline to businesses in particularly hard-hit areas such as tourism and hospitality.

“We would argue that the minister should retain discretion over the pace of the tapering of these supports, through setting dates and levels in secondary legislation, so that should the unforeseen occur we will not need to amend primary legislation if we are to adapt – which was an issue with the closure of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme in 2020.”

 Remote Working

“Sligo Chamber is committed to flexible and inclusive workplaces and welcomes the Government’s focus on remote working by allowing individuals to claim up to 30% of household bills on days they work from home. Further development and implementation of its Remote Work Strategy will help the Government deliver for Ireland’s workers, businesses and communities.

“We believe that remote work has an important role to play in creating a more sustainable location for Sligo and the region by not limiting work to geography. A national flexible working policy would strengthen this. It would also help to address skills shortages by providing a wider talent pool for employers.”

 Housing and vacant land
“The increase in spending on housing is a start when it comes to reducing the effect of the housing crisis. However, success here will not be measured in spending, it will be measured in the number of new homes that come to market.

“We were disappointed by the 3% zoned land levy. It is pitched at a level which will raise revenue for the Exchequer, while at the same time it is not high enough to incentivise the return of hoarded land to the open market.

“The price of land is the easiest part of the cost of housing equation for the government to influence and they have chosen not to do that in this budget. By treating it as a potential revenue stream, they create the problem where government policy is incentivised to support high land values.

“Sligo and the region needs to be seen as the key drivers of our domestic local economy. We need investment if we are to become the attractive places to live and work. This will need more vision if it is to happen.”

 Tourism/Culture Supports

“The extension of the 9% VAT rate beyond December 2021 will be important to this sector in the coming year. However, we are uncertain that the sector will be able to maintain current levels of activity through Q1 2022 given that international tourism options are becoming available to Irish people again. The sector will then become more reliant on inward tourism across 2022 and it is yet to be established that the travel routes from abroad will have reopened to the extent required if the sector is to maintain a high level of activity.

“Given this, support for the aviation sector in Budget 2022 is very welcome. History has shown that once lost, these routes can be difficult to restore. Reopening these aviation routes as soon as possible will be fundamental if we are to retain jobs, support tourism and strengthen local economies.

“Ultimately, Ireland’s arts and culture output is a significant strength of our country and one of the most important parts of our tourism product. Opportunities in that sector were sorely limited due to the pandemic.

“Therefore, we greatly welcome the increased allocation in Budget 2022 as recognition of the rich contribution made by those who work in these areas.”